For the past few days I have been busy re-writing the final scenes of my next DI Bliss book. Not that I was happy about it. As far as I was concerned, the storyline was set and all I needed to do was switch into editing mode. Trouble was, something was nagging away at me in the back of my mind. I mentally ran through the story, searching for potential plot holes or loose threads. Then something completely unexpected happened: I realised that a significant scene just a couple of chapters from the end of the book was screaming at me.
The question was, why?
I remember visualising the run-in, scenes disappearing beneath the fierce clattering of keys. I could see the scenes with vibrant clarity, almost as if I were watching a TV show or film.
Which is when I realised that was precisely what was wrong with it.
It was one of those scenes that you always see in cop shows or films – especially the American kind. The ones where action sequences such as fights or car chases are thrown into the mix in order to postpone the real dénouement. Yet this was a book, not a show. What’s more, it was my book. And it wasn’t even set in the US. But my mind had become so attuned to such visual imagery that I had ended up writing the entire scene without so much as considering whether it was the right option to do so. And it wasn’t. It really wasn’t.
In reflecting upon it, I could see all of the horrendous flaws. What I had written was like Die Hard meets Bourne, only it should have taken place in a nursing home, where Zimmer frames and false teeth were used as weapons. The two characters might as well have gummed each other to death. I had allowed myself to become so consumed by the kind of OTT drama that I watch on TV or in films that it had subconsciously seeped into my writing. An earlier scene also had to be closely re-examined, but I felt I could get away with one such scene, provided I handled it with care. There was no way I could do the same for the one that left me horror-struck.
I knew there had to be a better, and hopefully more eloquent way of arriving at the same conclusion, the relevant pieces of plot still falling into place. I like to think I found it, but as usual it is the readers who will decide.
I confess I do like to visualise scenes, especially those containing action or dialogue. But I have always been in control of it, rather than it control me. This time I had let it get away from me, but at least I caught it before I sent it out. I can only imagine what my publisher would have thought. I think ‘seeing’ a scene helps you write it better, both in what makes the final cut and that which gets pruned, or not even written in the first place. But getting caught up in it as if you’re merely an observer is not the way to go.
Believe me, several days of re-writing that scene and those which followed, taught me that.